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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead

p. 367


So ends this exceedingly instructive treatise of Plutarch, which, in spite of the mass of texts and monuments concerning Ȧsȧr and Ȧst which have already been deciphered by the industry of Egyptologists, remains the most complete account of the root mystery-myth of ancient Egypt. The myth of Osiris and Isis goes back to the earliest times of which we have record, and is always found in the same form. Indeed the “Ritual,” the “Book of the Dead,” which should rather be called the “Book of the Living,” might very well be styled “The Gospel of Osiris.”

It would be out of place here to seek for the historical origin of this Great Mystery; certainly Osiris was originally something greater than a “water sprite,” as Budge supposes. Osiris and Isis were and are originally, as I believe, cosmic or super-cosmic beings; for the Elder and Younger Horus, regarded macrocosmically, were the Intelligible and Sensible Worlds, and, regarded microcosmically, pertained to the mystery of the Christ-stage of manhood.

It may, of course, be denied that the ancient Egyptians were capable of entertaining any such notions; we, however, prefer the tradition of our Trismegistic tractates to the “primitive-culture” theories of anthropological speculation. That, however, such views were entertained in the first centuries is incontrovertible, as may be seen from a careful study of Philo of Alexandria alone. Thus to quote one passage out of many with regard to the two Horoi:

“For that this cosmos is the Younger Son of God, in that it is perceptible to sense. The Son who’s older than this one, He hath declared to be no one [perceptible by sense], for that he is conceivable by mind alone.

p. 368

[paragraph continues] But having judged him worthy of the Elder’s rights, He hath determined that he should remain with Him alone.” 1

When, moreover, we speak of the Christ-stage of manhood, we mean all that mystery that lies beyond the normal stage of man, including both the super-man stage and that of the Christ.

In any case, Plutarch is of the greatest service for understanding the atmosphere and environment in which the students of the Trismegistic tradition moved, and we have therefore bestowed more care upon him than perhaps the general reader may think necessary.


368:1 Quod Deus Im., § 6; M. 1, 277, P. 298 (Ri. ii. 72, 73).

Next: X. ‘Hermas’ and ‘Hermes’